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Bill Bergeman


10 Things That Used To Be Established Facts (but are now provably false)


Image: https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/how-tall-short-was-napoleon-bonaparte

    1. Humans only use 10% of their brains.

    No one is certain of the source of this long-standing myth, but it has been proven that humans use virtually all of their brains on a given day.


    2. Napoleon was short.

    The long-running myth that Napoleon Bonaparte was short is so ingrained in the collective consciousness that we even have a widely-used phrase for anyone who is diminutive and angry - Napoleon Complex. It is often cited, too, that his height measured five feet two inches, which would certainly be short for the period. However, that figure is based on the pre-metric French system of the time. In fact, it is believed that Napoleon would stand at about five feet five inches tall - which would have been just under the norm for a French male at the time.


    3. The Declaration of Independence in the United States was signed on July 4, 1776.

    Americans have long celebrated July 4th as the day the country declared its freedom from King George III, but the famous document was only adopted on July 4. It was signed by the delegates of the Continental Congress on August 2nd of the same year.


    4. Christopher Columbus discovered America.

    Setting aside the obvious fact that Native Americans migrated to North and South America thousands of years before 'ol Christoph made landfall somewhere in the Bahamas, with its built-in assumption that nothing exists until a white European discovers it, there is also established evidence that Norse Vikings inhabited lands in what is now New Foundland, Canada.


    5. The United States won the Vietnam War.

    If by winning you mean the U.S. allowed South Vietnam to cede its territory to North Vietnam, thus allowing the one thing that the U.S. was trying to prevent the entire war, then sure, you are welcome to think the U.S. won.


    6. The Wright Brothers were the first people to fly a man-made heaver-than-air vehicle.

    While there is no questioning the genius of the Wright Brothers, or the fact that their invention led to modern-day flight, new evidence has surfaced to suggest they were not the first. Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant, flew a powered machine two years before the Wright Brothers, on May 3, 1901, in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


    7. Robin Hood and his band of 'merry men' stole from the rich, gave to the poor, and thwarted the tyrannical Sherriff of Nottingham.

    In fact, no one is certain if there ever was such a man as Robin Hood. There are loose references in English folklore, and the occasional reference in historical records, but it's likely the case that the Robin Hood legend as we know it is largely a myth.


    8. Bats are blind.

    Bats are not blind. They do have small eyes, but they can also see very well in dimly-lit conditions.


    9. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.

    Well. Sort of. At 8,848 meters, the peak of Mount Everest is indeed the highest point above sea level.

    However, if we're talking about the highest peak from Earth's center, that award goes to Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador. Thanks in part to a bulge in the Earth's shape, this mountain is 2,072 meters farther from the earth's center than Mount Everest.

    Further, if we measure a mountain purely from its base to its peak, the prize for the tallest mountain on Earth goes to Mauna Kea in Hawai'i. The mountain measures 10,210 meters from bottom to top.


    10. If you swallow gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years.

    Where did this silly one come from? Sometimes I think parents tell this to their children just so they don't swallow gum. The truth is that gum does digest more slowly than many other substances, but it is usually fully digested within a week.


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